Sequel to Week 4 Deqsign?

Well I been blessed by some very good advice and actually have a plan!

Instead of “building a course” from scratch I will:

  • Contact a number of teachers to get their advice on what they like or dislike about online teaching
  • Start openly building the course at the school’s website based on an opening “Welcome to the course you will help me build because you can’t resist.” (Gorilla marketing for educators)
  • See what happens.

Previous attempts to lure instructors into even considering online teaching have failed because they’ve been top down without participation from the instructors. (There are also at least a thousand other reasons that can be used as discussion material in the class and not to be revealed here).

For now I’m going to start collecting reasons why this is going to work.

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  • Jim Stauffer  On October 1, 2012 at 12:37 AM

    I think you’ve got the right approach, Scott. Sometimes we have to go ahead and just do it instead of waiting until everything is just right. Someone has to lead the pack. I’ve jumped into some things I didn’t know if they would work, (and wasn’t all that sure it was working) and next thing I knew I was getting an award and being interviewed by the CBC morning show host. One great thing about the north – there’s lots of new territory to explore.

  • Jaime Oyarzo  On October 1, 2012 at 9:34 AM

    an excellent initiative Scott, which will probably require a lot of work and time but it may give a result with important learning for participants. I look forward to tell us the results.

  • Scott Johnson  On October 1, 2012 at 10:19 AM

    Thanks for the comments Jim and Jaime. Agree with you Jim that waiting for things to align perfectly is not the best option. When will things be just right? How will I know? How long will it be before it is politically safe to cross-over into the “enemy” silo and seek advice from other department leaders? On and on it goes. Anyway, how do we know something something won’t work unless it’s tried? And where better to try than in a place where the barriers are so poorly maintained? You never know when you will need your neighbour here so even if you don’t feel particularly helpful it can’t be a policy to stick to.

    The idea of engaging the “students” in the creation of the course comes from my experience in MOOCs where the fence lines are down and the borders unguarded. Sense of community from Jane Jacobs, Jenny Mackness plus Judie and Michael Bopp authors of “Recreating the World: A practical guide to building sustainable communities”. (A very small sampling of influences).

    The thing I like most about this project is it might already be there in someone else’s imagination and I just need to ask.

  • Sou Lackkaty  On October 1, 2012 at 5:28 PM

    I think it’s great to know where you are and where you want to go. And, it’s wonderful to have a foundation to start from and not from scratch. I agree that it’s wiser to go to the experts for help. Best wishes.

    • scottx5  On October 1, 2012 at 6:12 PM

      Sou, thanks for the encouragement. What I’m trying isn’t original only other methods haven’t been able to convince enough instructors to try online teaching. There are legitimate reasons for thinking our students will struggle with online skills and I want to see this through the eyes of the teacher. The pressure to move online has created an urgency that shouldn’t be the cause of bad design.

  • crumphelen  On October 2, 2012 at 3:09 AM

    Hi Scott, this sounds like a wonderful idea. I know from an earlier post when you were wondering how to engage the tutors you said something like ‘don’t mention the tools’. I think this is where it is at. If you could start by asking them about the purpose of their teaching and the values that this holds for them, so as to determine which elements of online course design can deliver/maintain this, I think you may start to get them on board. After all, the skills can be picked up relatively easily but only if it helps achieve your purpose.

  • Walter Muryasz  On October 2, 2012 at 11:25 PM

    Hi Scott, It’s great to see your thoughts, ideas and direction evolve in relation to Week 4’s assignment. It shows your commitment to putting into practice what you are learning.

    • scottx5  On October 3, 2012 at 9:55 AM

      Hi Walter, Having taken a number of classes relating to online course building it comes to mind that eventually I’ll know enough about the subject to stop. Sort of like issuing myself a certificate of completion:-) Then every new class raises a new set of questions that need to be resolved. But what happens next? Seems like a useful operating slogan.

  • VanessaVaile  On October 6, 2012 at 8:19 AM

    Cloning and tweaking is how most of us started designing syllabi in the first place. That works unless you get lay and don’t change make changes. An ur-thesis. may exist out there somewhere. Good syllabi are like Jane Jacobs’ organic cities. Rhizomatic before that was the word for it.

    Your idea of group build a thesis (Build a Bear for educators) sounds promising. Somehow I’m not really getting into the syllabus exercise. Not only have I revamped and built too many but also don’t have to anymore. Besides anything pedagogic I am building online is self-paced and more like an open access resource: organization or site map yes, syllabus no.

    • scottx5  On October 6, 2012 at 12:30 PM

      As a fan of systems thinking the idea of syllabus is attractive. It seems so powerful to make a map of how to reach an outcome. Like being in control Declaring control is a lot like the hubris of the urban designers Jane Jacobs so accurately mocks. In Joanna Macy’s book on mutual causality she uses the phrase “the co-arising of the doer and deed” which, when I think of when building a syllabus, makes the predictive hubris stand out. We are all so different, how can we write one map of the path to knowing something?

      Guess though that that we have to do something and not just leave the student with no indication of how to proceed? Apparently we are in the process of rewriting the specifications for syllabus creation at work. Having been off for a couple of weeks this alignment of the planets passed me by. How cool would it be to contribute to an actual change where I work? Going to have a look at what is proposed but have gotten tired of the “we appreciate your input” gesture that had me included in this project reading circle. The only “constructive” input in school is to support decisions made by others, for others. It’s an artificial world no matter which side of the wire you are on.

      I forget, did you ask me if I was still burned out?

      • VanessaVaile  On October 6, 2012 at 1:01 PM

        In another syllabus-design post I asked, how do you tweak a syllabus that has been handed to you to use as given, just add your name, contact information, office hours?” And then mused on underground, interactive syllabi. Could I have gotten comments mixed? 

        Also I have been writing and using interactive syllabi since the mid-90s. In that time, I have seen the wiggle room for meaningful innovation shrink to naught until they reached the end point described above. I have not written a syllabus in several years and cannot honestly say I miss it. Maybe I should try to come up with something resembling a syllabus for my online self paced ESL study group. Beats me how or why though. 



      • scottx5  On October 6, 2012 at 2:26 PM

        Not sure what to do with the prepackaged syllabi I mostly receive. Why not have an underground syllabus? How to trigger the alternative one to appear. Some of our students (most of them likely) would freak out but some would take to it instantly. Maybe we need an office of alternate reality instructional design? A parallel universe degree should be offered in every program. We already have an administrative structure that bears no relationship with reality so we won’t be doing anything that isn’t already out there. Funding could be difficult.

        How about writing a process syllabus with branching paths? Spot signpost around: “If you continue down this path you are likely to fail the assessment–do you wish to continue?” Another alternative is to allow students to write their own exams. No reason why this wouldn’t reveal a deeper understanding than a standard exam.

        Do you think the reason writing the syllabus seems so silly is it’s not written for the teacher or the student? Our syllabus writing is done to convince government funding authorities that our courses are laid out in a logical manner. They are mostly a formality. Think of it as fiction written for chipmunks.

      • VanessaVaile  On October 6, 2012 at 2:39 PM

        The ones that freak out … tell them you are just joking before they snitch on you. Wink at the others and wait for them to come to you. Branching… I’d been thinking about just that.

        Department descriptions of course goals are invariably too vague to be useful and rarely explained.

        Have a Happy Mad Hatter Day

        My favorite and indispensable clause was the one reserving my right to change the syllabus.

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